Tobold's Blog
Friday, May 12, 2006
Raid numbers

I'm still trying to collect more reliable data on how many people in World of Warcraft are using the raid content. Seems pretty much impossible. But I did find some hilarious quotes showing how hard it is to count things like these, and how unable Blizzard is to read those numbers right.

This is from the Blizzcon 2005 raid panel notes on Goblinworkshop:

Blizzard take issue with the charge that endgame dungeons are designed for the '1% of the game world that will actually see it.'
Worldwide, every weeknight during prime time there are approximately 500 Molten Core instances running (15,000 players), 150 Onyxia instances (2,500 players), 250 Blackwing Lair instances (6,000 players) and 700 Zul'Gurub instances (10,000). On the weekend, there are 800 Molten Core runs being made.

Yeah, they are right, the content is not for 1%, if you sum up those worldwide numbers you get 33,500 players raiding during prime time, which is a lot less than 1%. It's just half a percent of 6.5 million subscribers. I imagine Blizzard thinks that if half a percent of players is in raid instances on any given night, you can multiply this number by 30 to get 15% of players going raiding every month. Unfortunately that isn't true, because it is usually the same people going raiding 5 and more nights per week, so half a percent per day is quite compatible with PlayOn's number of 3.6% per month.

Well, digging a bit deeper on where this focus on raid content is coming from, I found this interview with Jeff Kaplan (whose job title when you google him goes from assistant designer, to senior designer, to lead designer, explaining why early WoW wasn't that raid-centric) on Safehouse (or this mirror). So where does Jeff come from? Quote:

In EQ, I joined a guild called "Legacy of Steel" and eventually became an officer of that guild. Legacy of Steel was the top guild on the server I was playing on and one of the top guilds in the game, serverwide, but we didn't have a Web site. So, the guild leader at the time, Ariel, asked me to start posting Web updates, which I did. However, I soon found that just writing about the guild's most recent kills got boring, so I started branching out into other areas, including writing in-depth design suggestions.

I eventually became Legacy of Steel's guild leader because Ariel was
becoming too busy at work, and during my tenure, I led the guild to a number of server firsts as well as a few serverwide firsts, seconds, and thirds. Ariel would still log in and play occasionally, though, and we would often chat about games. Well, as it turned out, Ariel was Rob Pardo, who is now the vice president of game design at Blizzard.

Oh great, the vice president of game design and the lead game designer of Blizzard have been leading an uber raiding guild in Everquest together, proudly being the first, second or third to kill a particular new raid boss. If every night 0.5% of people are having fun in raids, while the other 99.5% have run out of casual fun things to do, at least we know who to blame.
I don't know any game designers in RL, but someone that does should dig up personality traits of raiders and see if it matches the personality traits of people who go into game design. Maybe the problem is that people who are attracted to the design field are also the type who enjoy raiding.
I advice anyone to read the old LoS archives, mainly the really old stuff, Tigole wrote. I think he quit writing in mid 2002:

You will find such gems as what mistakes you can make, shaving you middle body areas. I kid you not. I think this entry ecspecially, buffed up his resume for the WoW job. Besides that, he is a very valuable ressource, just not the kinda guy to lead design for a 6 million player base.
Oh come on, Tobold. You're better than this. You're quoting numbers from Blizzcon 2005? Not only that, you quote those numbers for how many are raiding and then quote recent subscription numbers to skew it even more.

One year ago defeating Ragnaros was a huge accomplishment. Now there are about 20 guilds on my server who have done it (most of whom still clear Molten Core in a single night every week). Nefarian used to be the absolute pinnacle of accomplishment, now there are probably 9 guilds on my server who have downed him.

That's not taking into account those that are raiding but not pushing hard to get through. The older content gets, the more likely it is that people will give it a shot and possibly spend time on it.
If you read the paladin forums, you will find a lot of dirt on Kaplan. He has an insane hatred for the paladin class, because skilled paladins in EQ would out-tank him. The rise of Tigole at Blizzard is directly related to the fall of the paladin class, and every paladin knows this. He even admits in his interview to playing a shaman and hating paladins, he just doesn't give the real reason.

I think Kaplan's interview marks a turning point in Blizzrd internal politics and design management. I have a hunch he may be increasing his influence and his responsibilities there, and realizing that if his raid-friendly and paladin-hating attitudes start costing Blizzard accounts and revenue, he could be /Bkicked in an instant.

I suspect you will be seeing a series of major changes to paladins in the coming months, and you have already seen the amount of casual content being added in the expansion.

My guild is now able to clear all but Majordomo/Ragnaros in about 3 hours (we did it on Tuesday), so I'm not even going to bother with the rest of the Tier 0.5 quests. Furthermore, I compared my current DM/Scholo?Strath/LBRS/UBRS gear to the 0.5 set, and my current gear is much, much better in terms of spell damage.

If you really want to optimize your pre-Tier 1 gear, try (Kaliban's Loot Lists). It is a great site for building a wish list of item drops from all instances, which also gives you the flexibility of going to any instance with a group forming, and not being forced into Stratholme.

I also suggest trying some of the Silithus content. Those Duke spawns can drop some really nice gear, and you can probably 3-man them.
brian has a good point. And when the level cap is raised to 70, MC, Onyxia and some other content won't be raid content anymore. It will just be group content, and pick-up groups can attempt them. The 50-59 instances will be soloable, and the entry level 60 instances (Scholo, Strath, LBRS) will probably be easily runnable with 2 or 3 if you want to grind cash. So existing content will open up to those who don't raid with the expansion.

Now tobald, lately you seem to be railing against all group content as well, because you have not been able to successfully run instances with pick up groups. If you don't like groups and you don't like raids, what's left? Solo content only. But frankly, I'm right there with you. For example, getting a group isn't too bad is you're a priest, but who do the poor rogues have to blow to get in a Strath-live run? Games shouldn't be work, and once you bunch at the max level, you shouldn't dread logging on and taking 2 hours to get a group that falls apart halfway through the run.

So what do you do instead? Solo content. But if I have to solo Uld one more time, I'll go crazy. Being able to solo Maraudon, Zul'Far, BRD etc. at 70 will be nice, but you can only run those instances for cash.

You would hope 50%+ of the content they are adding in the expansion will be for 70s who want to solo, with items useable at 70. But I wouldn't hold your breath.

One of the great things about Warcraft compared to EQ was items will drop when you are solo that you can actually use, instead of having to sell items to get cash for useable items. Sadly, that model seems to be falling away for solo content in the recent and future expansions.

Brian, point taken on the data being too old. You are totally right there. Anyone got newer data?

Sammy, if you think I dislike groups, you must have misunderstood something I said. Small groups are my favorite occupation. If I talk about the superiority of solo content, that is not a personal preference of me, but an observation of what is driving sales numbers. I think a game must have both solo and group content. You don't get subscription numbers up if you don't offer solo content (see my just published news on DDO adding this missing feature), and you don't really have a massively multiplayer game if your players have no way to play together.

If Blizzard added a new 5-man dungeon in one patch, and a new raid dungeon in the next, plus soloable quests in all content patches, I think the customers would be lot happier. It is the impression of "the raiders get all the goodies", with only raid dungeons being added to the game since many months, which causes the unrest.
Newer data is impossible to come by, probably partially by design and partially because Blizzard seems clueless how to truly gauge players/accounts. Even I laughed at the NYT interview with the estimate of 25% of the player base having killed Ragnaros, although it's probably a higher number than many would have guessed before the interview came out.

I have one guy in my guild, very bright guy who raids with us semi-regularly. Since we only raid 3 nights a week, we're talking 1-2 nights a week with the occasional week off for him. The thing is, he has a 60 on another server who is in a very hardcore raiding guild. He sees raid content with them long before he sees it with us. He's the exception to the rule to be sure, but how in the world does Blizz count him?

It's the 1000's of exceptions to the different rules that make truly counting this seem near impossible.
0.5%, 2%, 3.6% ... does it matter what the exact percentage is? Regardless, it's a certainty that the number is a tiny part of WoW's player population.

I do buy the argument that exclusive content that only a few will see has some positive effect on all players. It's the same principle that auto manufacturers go by when they make their exotic models. But if Chevrolet decided to concentrate all their design efforts on exotic models and left the more mundane cars the same year after year, they'd see their customers flee to manufacturers that brought out new models in a price range they can afford. Same in any industry.
0.5%, 2%, 3.6% ... does it matter what the exact percentage is? Regardless, it's a certainty that the number is a tiny part of WoW's player population.

Yes, it does matter. Because you're also reflecting the smallest numbers you could find. The guess that 25% of the player base has seen Ragnaros die seems extremely high. With that being said, do you doubt that 25% of the player base has seen Molten Core? I don't. So even if all those people aren't raiding weekly, isn't high end content seen by 25% of the player base fairly sizeable?

Heck, I'll bet more players have seen Lucifron die than have completed the Fallen Hero quest line, yet I've never heard any complaints about how much time was spent putting that quest together.
Heck, I'll bet more players have seen Lucifron die than have completed the Fallen Hero quest line, yet I've never heard any complaints about how much time was spent putting that quest together.

One of my close friends who played EQ for over 5 years, plays wow and totally does not like the idea of joining a guild or raiding. He has several lvl 60s, several diff servers but enjoys PVP more than anything. So I wonder how many players out there are like him?

I do remember him joining like a PUG MC run, killing luci, but then it fell apart after that. But I doubt he has seen Rag, although he play a TON and is very SKILLED. He just doesn't want to get back on the "hamster wheel" gear-grind. For him, and many others the fun is in PVP.
You're kind of reinforcing my point though, Doug. If your friend who completely dislikes raiding has seen Lucifron die, doesn't that reinforce that Molten Core is now more casual content than many would lead you to believe?

I certainly wouldn't disagree that WoW needs work in many areas and that raiding is just about the least needy of all of them right now. PVP could definitely use some love. But quoting these silly low percentages and trying to say that nobody is raiding is just ridiculous.

There was a fantastic post on the general forums about why Naxxramas was chosen to go into the game at this stage rather than the 5 man dungeon people have been clamoring for. The basic point was that the expansion is about to come out and that 5 man dungeon would suddenly be relegated to a solo/duo dungeon people would run to grind gold. So is that a wise use of resources right now, a 5 man that will be all but abandoned in a couple of months? Or is it smarter to build an extremely challenging raid dungeon which will continue to see regular use even after the level cap changes?
Brian -

Tigole (Jeff Kaplan) played a Rogue in EQ. So your baseless comment about "Insane Paladin HATRED" is completely unfounded. Please remove your foot from your mouth next time before speaking, thanks.
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